Thursday, July 30, 2015

Famous Naengmyeong Place by City Hall: Nampo Myeonok

Nampo Myeonok for Naengmyeon in Seoul

Nampo Myeonok for Naengmyeon in Seoul

Nampo Myeonok for Naengmyeon in Seoul

Nampo Myeonok for Naengmyeon in Seoul
It's hot, so it is best to get some cool, chilled Naengmyeon at the classic Nampo Myeonok Restaurant by City Hall.

Pictures by Jihyun Lee

Seoul Eats: Nampomyeonok

Contrary to popular belief, Korean “naengmyeon” is a wintertime specialty dish that originated in North Korea. I guess the idea of combating cold with cold is similar to people in India drinking blazing hot coffee to fight the heat. Although some still eat naengmyeon-which translates to “cold noodle”- in winter; these days it is more common to eat it in summer cool down from the heat

Naengmyeon has become ubiquitous around Korea and the world. The standard seems to be a brown chewy noodle that's dense (and often clumps), a salty beef broth, half an egg (which you are supposed to eat first to prepare your stomach for the cold meal), turnip, chunks of crushed ice, and julienned cucumbers and pear. This standardized dish is the result of many shortcuts and compromises in ingredients. This is where Nampomyeonok stands out; it has stayed true to its origins and the evidence is in the food.

Nampomyeonok is near Eujiro 1-ga exit 1. You take the first right past a strange stone tower that is eccentrically covered in headlights and straight into an alley. About 100 meters into the alley you will see a big wooden sign to the right that says 남포명옥. If you miss the first entrance; don’t worry, there are two. As soon as you walk in you’ll be intrigued by the traditional han-ok (Korean traditional house) décor and the pots embedded in concrete on the floor. These pots contain dongchimi: a water radish kimchi, that is essential to the soup’s broth.

Nampo Myeonok for Naengmyeon in Seoul

During lunchtimes it is bustling with office workers getting their lunch fix. Almost everyone orders naengmyeon or bibim naengmyeong. The sound of slurping reverberates throughout each room. The al dente noodles have zip and are refined. They are closer to soba noodles than common buckwheat noodles you would find in the store. Here the broth doesn’t have chunks of ice; it has been chilled overnight. This is not a soup that is watered down, nor are you distracted by the conflicting textures of noodle, ice, and soup. At the end of the meal, it is a treat to drink the remaining broth.
I recommend you accompany your naengmyeon with bindaedukk, a Korean style pancake, which is made with mungbeans: ground bean sprout beans. Mungbeans are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The pancakes have a crispy exterior and the savory flavor is an excellent accompaniment to the cold, slightly acidic, soup.
Of course, if cold noodle soup seems alien to you there are plenty of other dishes such as “On Myun” which is its warm counterpart. Their Kalbi-tang (beef bone soup) is tasty and so is the handmade Jeopsi Mandu.

For dinner, I recommend the Abokjengban: a thinly sliced beef dish topped with fresh mushrooms, jujube, and other seasonal vegetables served in a copper bowl. The meat has a light flavor of garlic and onions and it is surprisingly greaseless. It is a sizable meal that is plenty for four and it pairs well with a bottle of soju. Now if that sounds too adventurous there is always bulgogi.

For a taste of the old world, I recommend you head over to Nampomyeonok. The charming atmosphere and food will take you away from the city.

Price 7,500 to 49,000 won
Open from 11:30am-10:00pm
Near Eujiro 1-ga exit 1
English help and menus are available
(02) 777-3131

Famous Naengmyeong Place by City Hall: Nampo Myeonok

Famous Naengmyeong Place by City Hall: Nampo Myeonok